June 12, 2018

Disaster: My test prep business content has been stolen and shared


My test prep business has been stolen and shared widely, I spent over 15K making this content, now its free for everyone!

My heart is broken, what shall I do now?

  1. 11

    Can you define "shared widely" for us, please?

    As others have said, your first step is to calm down and start to think rationally. "Shared widely" might be an emotive description or factually accurate. Which is it? Where could I find this stuff if I were to enter some search terms? What sort of search terms would I be entering in the first place to obtain this information?

    My point is this. Pretty much everyone on here is reasonably tech-savvy but you would be surprised how many people in the wider world really aren't even after 30 years or so of th internet.

    So how widely known is it that this information is widely shared? Does your target audience know? How large is your target audience? If, say, 30% of them know they can get the information elsewhere, is the remaining 70% a big enough audience to give you a good living?

    If this information had not been stolen, would you have expected a competitor to enter your arena? How much of your target audience would you have expected to lose to that competitor?

    Moving on to the content that was stolen. Can it be used out of context? Is the raw content useful or were you planning to differentiate yourself by doing things such as frequency analysis of questions or best answer approaches or other guidance that the thief may not be able to provide?

    After a while, any content will be past its sell-by date. I doubt that exams from ten years ago are relevant to the trends in modern exams. So, medium to long term, the value fo the stolen content will naturally decrease.

    What should you do now? Take a deep breath. Think about the questions I and others have asked of you and write down your answers to them. Some answers will be for the purposes of damage limitation; others will act as a reality check to help you get over the shock of the theft; others will be strategic and tactical indicators to get on track.

    Biggest goal? Launch and market your product as quickly as possible and spread the word so that you become the go-to choice. Boost your SEO rankings and, if your exams are local, get in touch with local newspapers and educational institutions to market your service. Pitch it that, in a fast-changing world, especially one where robotics is threatening the world of employment, students need all the help they can get - and that is why you have put together your product: a local boy concerned about local people and helping them to do the very best for themselves that they can.

    Without knowing more about your situation, I think marketing your way out of this mess will be the way to go - and this incident may even be the catalyst you need to get back on your horse and drink your milk, or whatever it was John Wayne used to say.

    1. 2

      By shared widely I mean = 6000 users in telegram only

      Does your target audience know?

      yes. the 6000 users all of them are my target audience

      How large is your target audience?

      10,000 -15,000

      If this information had not been stolen, would you have expected a competitor to enter your arena?

      No competitor yet, most are non profit.

      Can it be used out of context?


      Is the raw content useful or were you planning to differentiate yourself by doing things such as frequency analysis of questions or best answer approaches or other guidance that the thief may not be able to provide?

      The system I use make it more useful with personalized analytic system that let them know about their performance

      Biggest goal? Launch and market your product as quickly as possible

      Its already launched (2016) with over 30K usd in sales

      1. 2

        It is late here and I need my bed. I just thought of reporting copyright violations to Google though.

        Would this link help? https://support.google.com/legal/answer/3110420?hl=en-GB

        I’ll have another look at your comment tomorrow.

      2. 1

        How is your target audience only 10,000? Can you share your product?

  2. 4

    As bad as this may sound if your entire business hinges on its content alone it was doomed to fail anyways. Hear me out.

    I have a subscription to egghead for $200/yr watching tutorials on everything from React, Javascript etc. I can easily find the same content if not better on youtube. But egghead puts it all together for me in one place and vets the content it presents. I haven't got time to search youtube and hope to find something great.

    Similar I could pirate game of thrones off some torrent but I don't because HBO Now provides me great picture quality, no viruses etc.

    The list goes on and on.

    What am I trying to say is that content will get stolen. That's always been the nature of the web from the days of Napster. Learn to provide a bit more value than just plain content.

    1. 0

      Right, my product is over priced because (first mover) and know I think it was the worrest decision I ever made.

      People will not steal it , if it was affordable like netfilx

  3. 3

    Will this really affect your business?

    Stuff gets pirated and shared on torrents and some sites daily and you don't hear Adobe or MS going bankrupt because of that.

    So is this really that bad (your content was shared to your potential customers and they see no value in paying you anymore), or it's just a part of doing business?

    1. 1

      Adobe and MS has tons of cash, to make new product, I don't have that much. It might help in growth, but I'm not sure they'll buy anymore as it available for free.

      1. 2

        Thus the question. Panic is not a solution to anything.

        Again, was the content presented to your potential customers, or was this just shared somewhere underground?

        I gave you as an example Adobe and MS, but this is true for any designer and many developers as well. Its just a part of business.

        1. 0

          Presented to potential customers unfortunately

          1. 2

            The problem is that information you are sharing is very vague and even if any of you would like to give you good advice we cannot as you have left us in dark.

            1. 2

              I started the business solo in 2016 , total money spent for development 15k , made apox. 33k

              I sell subscription plans for 80-160 usd students to access high quality content that help them pass local exam (GRE like exam)

              The content is created mostly by freelancers.

              The site is like kaplan uwold or Magoosh, multiple choice questions with detailed explanations.

              The problem started few days ago when one of the subscribers, could use a camera to capture the screen with all of the website content, which is limited for subscribers, now heavily shared via WhatsApp and telegram

              1. 1

                Did this affected your sales in anyway, or you don't get enough to know yet?

                1. 0

                  It happend this week , I don't know really what will happen next, thats why I'm not able to sleep or to think logically

  4. 1

    Use CopyScape Sentry. Start today.

    I went through this exact issue a few months ago. I realized a bunch of our blog content has been stolen and republished without citation or permission. I also found an exact duplicate of our entire homepage, sales page and FAQ page online of someone trying to duplicate our exact business without writing one original sentence.

    They all got an angry emails and were reported to Google.

    The whole story is here! https://wpbuffs.com/tracking-duplicate-content/

  5. 1

    Content is always easily pirated. The ecosystem providing social, emotional, and technical support to your content is what will keep bringing the customer back.

  6. 1

    Mark M, the worst-case scenario is you have to go back to the 9-5. That can allow you build another business in your spare time. You have some experience and skill now that someone looking to hire would surely love, and you have the experience and skill of building and starting a business that for a while was successful. Experience and skill is a valuable thing, and it cannot be easily stolen from you.

    And while working the 9-5, you might find that sales from your existing business have dropped, but not gone away entirely. So it could still bring in some cash on the side, enough to fund the next venture. There are plenty of needs out there. Browse OppsDaily and Nugget.one. Look for the desperate cries and meet their needs.

    And as others have said, it is likely you can salvage your existing business by providing more value than the stolen content alone could ever provide. Focus on meeting the needs of the customer in ways the content alone cannot. It may be time for a pivot? Test customer responses aka Lean Startup.

    Do not lose hope. This is not the end. It might in fact be a bright new beginning.

  7. 1

    Hi Mark, sorry to hear! :/ You may find this podcast episode useful, specifically the part about DMCA takedowns:


  8. 1

    Could you share a bit more detail on how your business works and what was stolen, by whom and how?

    You'll get better advice and provide a clearer lesson to others.

    1. 1

      Its a question bank like uworld.com helping students to pass local exams.

      Subscription based eg 1 month access for 80usd, 6 months 120usd etc.

      The website is similar to http://www.uworld.com/ClientApp/V2/apps/qbank/demo.html#/test/previoustests/14

      1. 4

        As @BartBoch pointed out, this isn't necessarily so disastrous, it depends on how your product is distributed and discovered vs. the stolen content. What are the odds that someone who would otherwise be a customer of yours will find the stolen content and use that instead?

        You say it's been shared widely but what does that really mean? If it was shared on social media it will fade away soon and most target customers won't have seen it anyway. If it was posted on a bunch of random websites, most target customers won't have seen it.

        I'm sorry this happened and I'm sure you're feeling pretty shitty right now, but try to quantify and gain a clear view of how much damage has been done here. I bet it's less than you feel it is in your broken heart.

  9. -4

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    1. 4

      you could probably still sell it anyways

    2. 2

      Its very secure, they used cameras to steal the content

      1. 4

        Cameras capture the content in books and videos too.